How to Become an SEO Expert

Are you looking for an exciting career path in a growing field?

In my opinion SEO is the most in demand digital marketing skill, with the average salary of an entry-level SEO professional being $54,496 a year, and with the global market expecting to reach 122.11 billion by 2028 (Cision).

Now is the perfect time to join the career field!

Welcome to Bounce Rank, my name is Raj Clark, I am an 8 year SEO professional currently make $100,000 in the career field.

In this guide I break down my five step process how to become a SEO expert.

Let’s dive in:

1. Learn SEO

I first want to preface, that you can definitely learn SEO on your own, so don’t worry about needing any bootcamps, or courses.

But, I do want to be honest, if you want to be an expert in SEO, realistically you should take 2 -3 years to learn, but that should not stop you from taking on freelancing opportunities, along the way to make some money and gain some experience with performing SEO. 

Here are some basic concepts I would learn:

How Search Engines Work

It was reported that Google can change its algorithm as much as 3,000 times a year! (Moz). So as an SEO Specialist you have to have an above average understanding of how search engines work and the algorithms they use to determine which websites to rank and why.

graphic showing Google scanning pages to index

For an introduction to how search engines work read my SEO beginner guide.

What a keyword is and how to find them

A keyword is a word, phrase or question that someone types into a search engine when looking for information on the internet. The strategies you use to find these “keywords” is called keyword research.

Magnifying glasses on the word "keyword" meant to depict SEO keyword research

In my opinion, the best way to find these keywords is to use a free tool from Google called Keyword Planner. But as you begin to learn SEO,  you will hear more about a multitude of tools that can help you get this research done faster. 

picture of Google Keyword Planner console

To learn more read my beginner keyword research guide.

On-Site SEO (SEO Copywriting)

Modifying a web pages’ Title Tag, Meta Description tag, Alt Text tag, internal and external links are all examples of On-Page SEO components, that you can modify to help a website rank higher in the search results.

The strategy you use to write this new content and manipulate the “tags” is called SEO copywriting, which is a bit different then traditional writing:

picture of the word SEO showing all the components of a strategy

In general SEO copywriting is more about using:

  • Shorter sentences and more white space
  • Natural language 
  • Page Headings
  • Bulleted list
  • Active voice instead of passive voice

Using copywriting methods like these not only help you rank for search engines but also provide a pleasant user experience.

To build a basic understanding of this concept, read my On-Site SEO beginner guide.

To learn more about SEO copywriting I would recommend reading my 8 Semantic SEO Copywriting tips guide.

Off-Site SEO

“Backlinks” or links a website has from other websites is considered the number one factor when ranking websites on Google ( BacklinkO). 

picture showing the components of link-building

In order to get these links, you have to do a process called Link Building. This can be done through several ways:

  • Blog Outreach
  • Citation building
  • Help a Reporter Outreach
  • Social media

To learn more, read my Off-Site SEO beginner guide.

Technical SEO

While SEO is primarily a non-coding tech job, in order to be successful you must still have an understanding of how websites work and what are technical factors that can prevent them from ranking high on search engines. 

guy coding on a computer

The number one factor being slow website speed. So when learning technical SEO,  I would first start off with learning simple tools like Google Page Speed Insights, Google Lighthouse, and Screaming Frog

These basic tools can help you quickly diagnose a website, make recommendations, and then create a plan to optimize the website to increase its performance.

Read my technical SEO beginner guide to develop a basic understanding of how to perform these tasks.

Data collecting and Analysis

A part of being an SEO expert is you have to be able to explain how what you are doing is actually helping to improve the business. You can do this through data collecting and analysis. 

person taking a look at data charts and studying it

In my opinion the best tools for collecting and analyzing SEO data would be Google Search Console and Google Analytics

With Search Console you can keep track of a website’s  search traffic, analyze keywords, and see how your website is doing in the search results.

Read my guide on how to install Google Search Console on your website.

With Google Analytics you can use event tracking to see how many people visited the website from Google and became a lead, or a person most likely to purchase a business’s product or service.  

And then with even more detailed tracking you can see how many of them actually made a purchase and brought revenue into the business.

Being able to collect data and analyze it in my opinion is the best way to maintain your position and to then pursue more lucrative opportunities later down the road.

2. Create projects and start freelancing

As I mentioned previously, as you’re learning the basics of SEO I highly recommend you start creating projects and getting some freelancing opportunities under your belt, even if they are unpaid.

For instance, a great project to create is an SEO audit because with this project you are able to practice checking a website to make sure it is up to standards for all three domains of SEO (On-site, Off-site, and Technical).

Check out this video below that my intern did on how to do a basic SEO audit:

Also, you get some great experience with using a variety of tools like Google’s Page Speed insights, Ahrefs Domain authority checker, Screaming Frog, and other keyword research tools of your choosing.

For freelancing opportunities you could just simply ask your friends and family if they need help with a website or if they know someone who has a business and they’re trying to get some traffic from Google.  

You’d be surprised how many people you would know that could use some help. 

Another great idea is to practice SEO for yourself.

Starting a YouTube channel could be some good practice with doing YouTube SEO.

Or starting an Etsy shop or Amazon business could give you some practice with eCommerce SEO.

As you can see there are numerous ways to practice SEO. All of them can help you become a better and more rounded SEO specialist.

3. Write a resume and cover letter

So now that you’ve racked up some freelancing opportunities and some relevant work experience now is the time to write a resume and a cover letter.

resumes on a table

In this article I show you how to write a killer SEO specialist resume in 3 steps. And, in this article I show you how to write an awesome SEO specialist cover letter to go with it.

Resume and cover letter tip: When mentioning freelancing opportunities on your resume and cover letter, I would highly recommend making it clear that the opportunities were in the past, and you are no longer freelancing. 

Reason being is that you want to make it clear to recruiters that you are looking for a position and not currently doing “side work”. It can be a bit worrisome for recruiters if you are doing opportunities on the side because it says that you may not be ready to fully commit to the position you are seeking. 

You can make it clear that the opportunity has concluded by adding the start and end date of the opportunity on your resume, and mentioning that you have moved on somewhere in your cover letter.

4. Apply for jobs

Okay, now that you have an awesome resume and cover letter, it is time for the moment of truth:

Person looking at a resume and speaking to the applicant

applying for a job! 

When searching for SEO jobs to apply to, I recommend looking on:

  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • Linkedin
  • Snagajob
  • Ziprecruiter
  • Monster

Read my post Best SEO Specialist job boards for information on why I recommend these.

Job Application Tip: When applying to a job, you will be asked to submit the application, resume, and in most cases, a cover letter. In addition to these three components, I also recommend submitting a project that you’ve completed, such as an SEO audit. 

When applying to jobs, you can think of it as a “point system” –  and each project you add is considered a “point”.

An application with a cover letter, resume, and a project will “score higher” or stand out more than an application with a resume alone.

So I do believe it can be worth the extra effort to include a project with your application. 

5. Interview and Keep applying

Okay, so maybe you’ve applied and have secured a few interviews, then need to know what to expect.

My posts preparing for SEO Specialist interview and SEO Specialist interview questions which gives answers to 15 common questions recruiters ask.

Reading both these post will help you have a great interview.

But I’m going to be honest, recruiters are interviewing multiple candidates for a position, so you don’t want to make the mistake of waiting for a response, only to be told that they have moved on with another candidate.  

A person frustrated sitting at a computer

Sometimes companies don’t email you at all letting you know that they have moved on. 

So don’t make the mistake of waiting for a response you may never get. 

So with that being said, I would keep applying even if you believe you may get an offer soon.  

Best practice is to apply to at least 10 positions per day. 

I’m also going to be honest again, it is not uncommon for it to take at least 30 interviews before you get your first position, but if that scares you then this is not the field for you anyway.  

I like to think of each interview as an opportunity to learn and grow in the field. Getting a job is just a side effect of putting in the work to learn the skills. 

Not to mention, once you do get the job you will now have leverage. That you will be able to use to get an even higher paying position later on down the road. 

How to become an SEO Specialist FAQs

Do you need a certification to get hired

No you do not need any certification to become an SEO specialist, but getting some can help you stand out from other applicants when applying for jobs.

Here are four certifications I would recommend getting anyway:

  1. Google Analytics For Beginners
  2. Google Tag Manager Fundamentals
  3. Hubspot Inbound Marketing
  4. Coursera Google SEO course

How do I explain SEO on my resume

The best way to explain SEO on your resume is to highlight any task that you have done to increase a websites’ traffic. So if you have rewritten content to make it easier to read, put it on your resume. If you have added internal or external links to a website. Put that on your resume.

So anything that highlights the impact you have made. Here are a few more examples you can include:

  • Rewrote Title tags and Meta descriptions to make them keyword rich
  • Added meaningful Alt text
  • Performed Blog outreach to increase Backlinks
  • Add Schema markup to increase click through rate
  • Used SEO tools to perform Keyword research.

Again, just think back to previous positions you’ve worked and mention any skills that are relevant to a recruiter.

Is it worth becoming an SEO Specialist

Yes absolutely! Becoming an SEO specialist is a great idea for many reasons:

  • Work remotely
  • Paid time off
  • Valuable skill set
  • No bossy managers!

Not to mention, you do not need a college degree or certification to get a job! So now what are you waiting for?

What is typical workday like for an specialist

As I mentioned, SEOs have to know the ins and outs of how SEO works. The task that an SEO specialist may be asked to do on a day-to-day basis may vary depending on the type of company the specialist works for. 

For instance, a specialist working for a digital marketing agency may spend more time optimizing on-site content, as they are primarily working with clients that need new content. 

On the other hand, an in-house specialist might spend more time performing link building, as the brand is already established therefore the company would primarily need help with growing their presence further through gaining backlinks.

With that being said, here are several tasks that are applicable to just about all specialists regardless of where you work:

  • Performing keyword research
  • Analyzing keyword rankings and Google Search Console data
  • Optimizing Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Alt text
  • Reading over content and optimizing it with keywords
  • Writing Schema Markup
  • Performing competitor analysis
  • Auditing
  • Fixing indexation errors

Where can I learn more about SEO?

I would visit other SEO blogs, YouTube, and Google itself to learn more about the way SEO works. I would also recommend taking an online course. Courses typically provide you with an overview of the skills I mentioned above and a breakdown of the tools (e.g., Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, etc.) you will most likely be using on the job.

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